Though the number of parking citations issued this year is actually down by between 9,000 and 10,000 from last year, the village is expecting to collect $900,000 more in scofflaw-generated revenue by the end of 2005.
Oak Park officials attribute the increase largely to the ability of the village to track down and notify those who owe fines, which became significantly easier after the village adopted its in-house adjudication system.
After instituting the system in 2003, the village expected revenue would climb somewhat, from $2.1 million last year, to $2.7 million in 2005, said Village Finance Director Greg Peters.
Now, however, Peters said it's likely that the total figure will reach $3 million by the end of the year.
The money is funneled into the village's parking fund, which is only used for parking-related expenses, he said.
Several factors have led to the increase in revenue, said Wayne Moran, who heads the adjudication department. He noted one key advantage the village has gained is access to the secretary of state's address database. Based on those addresses, the department uses an automated system to send letters to notify ticket holders of their violations, and how and by when they can file an appeal.
Over the last year, the village has held over 5,000 adjudication hearings, and roughly 30 percent to 35 percent of those participating in the system have been found not guilty, Moran said. Only seven people this year have appealed the village's findings to Cook County court, he said.
The village's improved notification process also appears to have led to an increase in the number of people who pay tickets quickly, rather than letting citations pile up, thus increasing fines.
"It has definitely helped keep the overall obligations down," he said.
The ability to pay parking citations online has also helped the village process collections faster and more efficiently, though no specific figures on how many tickets have been paid online are available yet, Moran said. In addition, the village no longer has to pay other entities for the processing of appeals.
The doubling of the fines people with outstanding parking tickets must pay has contributed only somewhat to the increase in revenue, said Village Park Services Manager Alva Johnson.
"Either we get them before [fines pile up], or a long time after," Johnson said, adding that those who wait to pay, and end up with some 15 tickets, can easily end up with a total fine of over $1,000?#34;-and an additional "booting" fee.
Shortly after the adjudication system was put in place, the village made a more concerted effort to boot cars, largely due, again, to having a greater ability to track down who owed how much money.
During a spate of bootings shortly after the system was put in place, village officials said some drivers frequenting Oak Park had as many as 400 unpaid tickets. Now, Johnson said, those who are booted usually have far less, though the amount of cars booted has increased.
From June 22, 2004, through the end of that year, the village had clamped down on 206 vehicles. Through mid-August of this year, the village has booted 347 cars, he said. The village owns 30 car boots, though it tries not to use some 16 older devices, Johnson said, adding that some boots are significantly damaged when scofflaws try to pry them off, drive away with them, or have the car towed with boot attached (running off with a boot is a felony offense, he added).
Some changes may also be ahead for the adjudication department, said Moran. The village board has expressed a willingness to bring hearings on other types of violations?#34;-including those related to animal control and health codes?#34;in house.
Moran also said he is interested in possibly changing the format of the village's online processing site, which requires a registration process.
parking placard case to CountyOak Park resident Agnes Kelly, 82, has lived in the village since 1969, and is gearing up to do her "civic duty" and fight the village on its decision to issue her a citation for parking in a handicapped spot. Kelly said she owns the appropriate disabled placard but had simply forgotten to display it.
Kelly received a $100 fine for parking in the spot, even after filing a written appeal with the village. The appeal included a copy of her placard.
She was parked in the Holley Court parking garage during a chiropractor's appointment.
"As far as I'm concerned, I was charged for $100 for being stupid," she said, adding that she has a "perfect" driving record. "Now I have no choice but to pursue this."
She's expected to appear at a hearing at 9:30 this morning at Cook County court. If residents are dissatisfied with a village adjudication hearing, they have the ability to appeal to the county. Kelly said she felt fighting the decision was worth the $78 she had to pay to be heard by a county judge.
Wayne Moran, who heads the village's adjudication department, said he was not familiar with the specific circumstances of Kelly's case, but said residents who produce placards are typically found to be not-guilty.